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Posts For: November 27, 2011

Left’s Critique of West Bank Settlers Doesn’t Stop at the Green Line

The standard critique of Israel’s settlement movement from the Zionist left has been to point out that attempting to assert sovereignty over the West Bank could lead to an Arab majority. The argument is that this would enable the Palestinians to succeed in wiping out the Jewish state using demography rather than invasion or terror. It’s a point of view many Israelis share, but the Palestinian refusal to make peace has continued to frustrate the wishes of most Jews for a two-state solution. But the dislike of the settlers goes a lot deeper than mere demographic arguments. As Gershom Gorenberg’s piece in the New York Times “Sunday Review” today illustrates, the passion to buttress the Jewish presence in any part of the country, whether on the wrong side of the Green Line or not, is what is really bugging the left.

Gorenberg, a veteran Israeli journalist whose animus for the settlers and Israel’s government have made him a regular presence in liberal American publications, takes his familiar attacks on the right to new levels in a piece in which he claims efforts to ensure there is a Jewish majority in the Israeli city of Acre as well as the Galilee are no more defensible than the settlers’ attempts to establish Israeli beachheads in the West Bank. For Gorenberg, the push to ensure that parts of pre-June 1967 Israel will not be lost to the Arabs is also “racist.” Indeed, he worries that even if a two-state solution forces some of the Jews currently living in the West Bank to relocate inside the Green Line, they will take their Zionist fervor with them–leading to conflicts that will replicate the “price tag” attacks on Arabs that leftists see as the inevitable product of settler ideology. This distorted argument not only turns liberal Israeli arguments upside down, it also betrays the mixed feelings some on the left seem to have for Zionism.

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The standard critique of Israel’s settlement movement from the Zionist left has been to point out that attempting to assert sovereignty over the West Bank could lead to an Arab majority. The argument is that this would enable the Palestinians to succeed in wiping out the Jewish state using demography rather than invasion or terror. It’s a point of view many Israelis share, but the Palestinian refusal to make peace has continued to frustrate the wishes of most Jews for a two-state solution. But the dislike of the settlers goes a lot deeper than mere demographic arguments. As Gershom Gorenberg’s piece in the New York Times “Sunday Review” today illustrates, the passion to buttress the Jewish presence in any part of the country, whether on the wrong side of the Green Line or not, is what is really bugging the left.

Gorenberg, a veteran Israeli journalist whose animus for the settlers and Israel’s government have made him a regular presence in liberal American publications, takes his familiar attacks on the right to new levels in a piece in which he claims efforts to ensure there is a Jewish majority in the Israeli city of Acre as well as the Galilee are no more defensible than the settlers’ attempts to establish Israeli beachheads in the West Bank. For Gorenberg, the push to ensure that parts of pre-June 1967 Israel will not be lost to the Arabs is also “racist.” Indeed, he worries that even if a two-state solution forces some of the Jews currently living in the West Bank to relocate inside the Green Line, they will take their Zionist fervor with them–leading to conflicts that will replicate the “price tag” attacks on Arabs that leftists see as the inevitable product of settler ideology. This distorted argument not only turns liberal Israeli arguments upside down, it also betrays the mixed feelings some on the left seem to have for Zionism.

As with many accounts of events on the West Bank that treat the rare outbreaks of Jewish violence against Arabs as the only story worth reporting, Gorenberg’s attempt to paint all settlers with the brush of the “price tag” crimes is both factually incorrect as well as unfair. Anti-Jewish violence in the West Bank is a daily occurrence that liberal journalists either choose to ignore or rationalize as justified, because they see the presence of Israelis in the territories as inherently illegitimate. The same mindset has led the press to treat a regrettable case of arson against a mosque inside Israel as a harbinger of pogroms against Arab citizens. As with the West Bank, far more numerous incidents — especially in the Galilee — in which Israeli Arabs have targeted Jews are treated as either unimportant or just ignored.

Rather than the malevolent attitudes of West Bank settlers infecting ordinary Israelis, as Gorenberg fears, what has actually happened in the last 18 years since the Oslo Accords empowered Fatah terrorists in the territories is that Israeli Arabs have become radicalized. The political culture of the people who now dub themselves Palestinians with Israeli citizenship has become a reflection of the hatred and rejectionism that characterizes the Palestinian Authority and Hamas.

Gorenberg’s disgust for attempts to reinforce Jewish numbers in the Galilee also contradicts a basic tenant of the Israeli left. For decades, even those who agreed Jews ought to have the right to live in the West Bank because it is the heart of the historic Jewish homeland argued that it made more sense to put more Jewish resources into the battle to maintain a Jewish majority in the Galilee and the Negev. If such efforts are now to be treated as being as illegitimate as the campaign to restore Jewish life to Judea and Samaria, it is difficult to see how Gorenberg imagines Israel can retain a Jewish majority.

This reflects the cognitive dissonance on the left. Though writers like Gorenberg claim to support the idea of a democratic Israel with a Jewish majority, the anti-Zionist logic that brands the Jewish presence in the West Bank as racist colonialism can just as easily be applied to any spot inside the Green Line. Israel’s enemies view Tel Aviv as being as much an illegal settlement as the most remote hilltop encampment of right-wing Jewish extremists. The fact that Gorenberg views Jewish community-building in Acre and the Galilee with the same disgust as West Bank settlements illustrates all too clearly just how out of touch he is with both reality and the views of Israel’s moderate Zionist majority.

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Winds of Change in the Levant

Lebanon’s Prime Minister Najib Mikati says he will resign his post if the parliament doesn’t agree to fund the United Nations Special Tribunal for Lebanon tasked with investigating and prosecuting the assassins of former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri.

Hezbollah is undoubtedly furious. When the United Nations indicted four of its members for that spectacular act of terrorism in the capital (the bomb that killed Hariri weighed more than 2,000 pounds and changed the direction of that country’s history), it brought down the elected government and replaced Hariri’s son Saad with Mikati. Yet its very own hand-picked replacement refuses to comply with the one task he was ordered to carry out.

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Lebanon’s Prime Minister Najib Mikati says he will resign his post if the parliament doesn’t agree to fund the United Nations Special Tribunal for Lebanon tasked with investigating and prosecuting the assassins of former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri.

Hezbollah is undoubtedly furious. When the United Nations indicted four of its members for that spectacular act of terrorism in the capital (the bomb that killed Hariri weighed more than 2,000 pounds and changed the direction of that country’s history), it brought down the elected government and replaced Hariri’s son Saad with Mikati. Yet its very own hand-picked replacement refuses to comply with the one task he was ordered to carry out.

Furious as Hezbollah must be, it probably isn’t surprised. Earlier this year, Wikileaks published a leaked diplomatic cable that quoted Mikati describing Hezbollah as “cancerous” and wishing to see its state-within-a-state destroyed.

Syria, Iran and Hezbollah don’t have as many genuine allies in Lebanon’s government as it appears. A large number of Lebanon’s elite only works with them and for them because they have guns jammed into their backs. The years-long murder and intimidation campaign against Lebanese elected officials and journalists during and after the 2005 Cedar Revolution yielded results.

But that partially bogus alliance-under-duress is slowly unraveling now that the regime of Syria’s Bashar al-Assad appears to be circling the drain. God only knows what the political map of the Eastern Mediterranean will look like this time next year, but it’s not remotely likely to look the same as it has.

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Union Leader Endorsement Anoints Gingrich as the Right’s “Not Romney”

It is arguable whether any editorial stand by a print newspaper counts for all that much anymore. But if any endorsement can be said to be meaningful, then it must be admitted the Union Leader’s stand on the New Hampshire Republican presidential primary is one. Which means the outlook for Newt Gingrich’s presidential campaign is looking a bit sunnier today after the front-page embrace of the former Speaker of the House by publisher Joseph W. McQuaid.

Though Gingrich and his backers will spin this endorsement as a tribute to his good qualities, you don’t have to read too far between the lines to see the newspaper’s decision speaks volumes about McQaid’s antipathy for Mitt Romney. Gingrich is, the paper concedes, “not the perfect candidate” and one with whom it clearly disagrees on a number of important issues. But as McQuaid wrote in a not very subtle reference to Romney, “We would rather back someone with whom we may sometimes disagree than one who tells us what he thinks we want to hear.”

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It is arguable whether any editorial stand by a print newspaper counts for all that much anymore. But if any endorsement can be said to be meaningful, then it must be admitted the Union Leader’s stand on the New Hampshire Republican presidential primary is one. Which means the outlook for Newt Gingrich’s presidential campaign is looking a bit sunnier today after the front-page embrace of the former Speaker of the House by publisher Joseph W. McQuaid.

Though Gingrich and his backers will spin this endorsement as a tribute to his good qualities, you don’t have to read too far between the lines to see the newspaper’s decision speaks volumes about McQaid’s antipathy for Mitt Romney. Gingrich is, the paper concedes, “not the perfect candidate” and one with whom it clearly disagrees on a number of important issues. But as McQuaid wrote in a not very subtle reference to Romney, “We would rather back someone with whom we may sometimes disagree than one who tells us what he thinks we want to hear.”

The Union Leader nod makes it clear that for many on the right, anyone, even an obviously flawed character like Gingrich, whose positions on the issues are wildly inconsistent and often, as with immigration, far to the left of most conservatives, is preferable to the former governor of neighboring Massachusetts. Though Gingrich has flipped and flopped on issues like immigration, the environment and health care at least as much as Romney has done on abortion, the animus felt by some right-wingers is so great that they obviously prefer any Republican with a pulse to the man polls say still has a commanding lead in the Granite State.

In the eyes of conservatives like McQuaid, Romney will always be a liberal RINO who only won the governor’s seat in Massachusetts by tilting to the left to accommodate that blue state’s voters. Just as conservatives of an earlier generation hated liberal GOP office-holders like Nelson Rockefeller with a passion that surpassed their dislike of Democrats, it now appears that Romney has assumed that role for some denizens of the contemporary right. And nothing Romney says or does appears likely to change this.

The Union Leader endorsement may not have much impact in Iowa, where Gingrich is currently leading, but its role in helping to pick winners in New Hampshire is part of the lore of the state’s political history. And given the paper’s willingness to keep hammering at Romney every day for the next few weeks, we’ll see whether their clout is as formidable as it has been in the past. Four years ago, despite Romney’s seeming advantage there, the paper’s backing of John McCain, another candidate clearly to the newspaper’s left, gave the Arizonan a boost that helped lead to a primary victory that set in motion the unlikely chain of events that led to his nomination. That’s no small irony considering many on the right believe Romney’s candidacy to be similar to that of the moderate McCain this time around.

The question for Republicans is not only whether this sort of grudge makes any sense but also whether it is a reasonable response to an election whose main focus will be the ability of the GOP to field a candidate capable of defeating Barack Obama.

In touting Gingrich, the paper speaks of his 1994 triumph when he led Republicans to victory in a midterm election that ended 40 years of Democratic rule and then passed the Contract With America. Gingrich deserves great credit for the achievement, but does anyone really think what happened 17 years ago — but not the far less happy record of the speaker during the rest of his short reign on Capitol Hill — is really going to resonate even with Republicans next fall?

Barack Obama spent last summer’s debate over the debt ceiling attempting to recreate Bill Clinton’s famous trouncing of Gingrich during the 1995 government shutdown crisis. Both current Speaker John Boehner and House Majority Leader Eric Cantor were too smart to allow themselves to be fitted for the Gingrich clown suit. But if Republicans listen to the Union Leader, next fall Obama won’t have to find a stand-in for Clinton’s whipping boy. Instead, he’ll be at the top of the Republican ticket ensuring a second term for the most liberal resident of the White House since Jimmy Carter.

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Michele Bachmann’s Misleading Claims

Michele Bachmann gave what is a transparently misleading interview on “Fox & Friends.”

To set the context: Representative Bachmann has been critical of Newt Gingrich’s statement, made at the most recent GOP debate, that while he favors deporting all recent unattached illegals, he doesn’t believe in deporting illegal immigrants who have been here for 25 years, have a family/community here, and have been law-abiding and tax-paying. They could get what the Krieble Foundation developed as a “red card” and be legal, but with no path to citizenship and no right to vote.

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Michele Bachmann gave what is a transparently misleading interview on “Fox & Friends.”

To set the context: Representative Bachmann has been critical of Newt Gingrich’s statement, made at the most recent GOP debate, that while he favors deporting all recent unattached illegals, he doesn’t believe in deporting illegal immigrants who have been here for 25 years, have a family/community here, and have been law-abiding and tax-paying. They could get what the Krieble Foundation developed as a “red card” and be legal, but with no path to citizenship and no right to vote.

When asked what exactly she would do facing a similar scenario, Bachmann dodged the question (twice, actually). She was then shown a clip of her answer in a September GOP debate in which she was asked what she would do with the 11 million illegal immigrants in America. Two months ago she said, “That’s right. And again, it is sequential, and it depends upon where they live, how long they have been here, if they have a criminal record. All of those things have to be taken into place.”

When asked by the interview where the daylight is between Gingrich’s position and what she said in September, Bachmann scoffed, “There’s no commonality in those comments at all.” When pressed about what she meant, Bachmann said the question was about who should be deported first. “That’s what my understanding of the question was,” she said. Except that’s not what questioner Jose Diaz-Balart asked. Here’s the transcript of the debate, which includes this exchange:

DIAZ-BALART: Congresswoman, you said the fence — that you believe the fence is fundamental as an integral part of controlling the border. Let’s say that in 2012 or 2013, there’s a fence, the border is secure, gasoline is $2 a gallon. What do you do then with 11 million people, as the Speaker says, many of whom have U.S.-born children here? What do you do?

BACHMANN: Well, again, understand the context and the problem that we’re dealing with. In Mexico right now, we’re dealing with narco terrorists. This is a very serious problem. To not build a border or a fence on every part of that border would be, in effect, to yield United States sovereignty not only to our nation anymore, but to yield it to another nation. That we cannot do. One thing that the American people have said to me over and over again — and I was just last week down in Miami. I was visiting the Bay of Pigs Museum with Cuban-Americans. I was down at the Versailles Cafe. I met with a number of people, and it’s very interesting. The Hispanic-American community wants us to stop giving taxpayer-subsidized benefits to illegal aliens and benefits, and they want us to stop giving taxpayer-subsidized benefits to their children as well.

DIAZ-BALART: A quick 30-second rebuttal on the specific question. The fence is built, the border is under control. What do you do with 11.5 million people who are here without documents and with U.S.- born children?

BACHMANN: Well, that’s right. And again, it is sequential, and it depends upon where they live, how long they have been here, if they have a criminal record. All of those things have to be taken into place. But one thing that we do know, our immigration law worked beautifully back in the 1950s, up until the early 1960s, when people had to demonstrate that they had money in their pocket, they had no contagious diseases, they weren’t a felon. They had to agree to learn to speak the English language, they had to learn American history and the Constitution. And the one thing they had to promise is that they would not become a burden on the American taxpayer. That’s what we have to enforce.

DIAZ-BALART: Thank you.

As one can see, there was nothing about who should be deported first; the question was about what we should do with the 11 million or so illegal immigrants who are already in this country. Bachmann’s response was essentially the same as the one Newt Gingrich gave on Tuesday. Yet Bachmann, desperately in search of an issue to hurt Gingrich and help herself, now insists that Gingrich’s answer qualifies as amnesty.

When Bachmann made the (ludicrous) claim that the HPV vaccine causes mental retardation, one could perhaps excuse her comments on the basis of ignorance. That explanation isn’t nearly as plausible this time around. Her rendition of the September debate looks to be both false and disingenuous. Bachmann isn’t going to win the GOP nomination. She shouldn’t lose her integrity as well.

 

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Re: Failures in Israel Advocacy

Matthew’s critique of Israel’s latest PR fad is spot-on: No campaign can succeed without addressing the fundamental issue of the Jews’ “right to self-determination in their homeland.” But there’s one simple thing both Israel and Jewish organizations could do to improve the situation: stop appointing official representatives who actively promote the anti-Israel case. Consider two examples: former Israeli Ambassador to the UN Gabriela Shalev, and Zoe Jick, New York regional director for the World Zionist Organization’s Department of Diaspora Activities.

In an interview with the Los Angeles Times in August, Shalev said Israel shared the blame for the Palestinians’ statehood application to the UN, inter alia because it put “new things on the table, like the requirement that Palestinians recognize Israel as the homeland of Jewish people, which to my mind is superfluous.” If even Israel’s former UN ambassador deems this a “new” and “superfluous” condition that contributed to stymieing peace efforts, you can’t blame the general public for thinking so. Yet Shalev is wrong on both counts.

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Matthew’s critique of Israel’s latest PR fad is spot-on: No campaign can succeed without addressing the fundamental issue of the Jews’ “right to self-determination in their homeland.” But there’s one simple thing both Israel and Jewish organizations could do to improve the situation: stop appointing official representatives who actively promote the anti-Israel case. Consider two examples: former Israeli Ambassador to the UN Gabriela Shalev, and Zoe Jick, New York regional director for the World Zionist Organization’s Department of Diaspora Activities.

In an interview with the Los Angeles Times in August, Shalev said Israel shared the blame for the Palestinians’ statehood application to the UN, inter alia because it put “new things on the table, like the requirement that Palestinians recognize Israel as the homeland of Jewish people, which to my mind is superfluous.” If even Israel’s former UN ambassador deems this a “new” and “superfluous” condition that contributed to stymieing peace efforts, you can’t blame the general public for thinking so. Yet Shalev is wrong on both counts.

First, far from being a “new” condition invented by the Netanyahu government, this demand originated with the Olmert government – the very one she served. As leaked memos from the Palestinian negotiating team revealed in January, Olmert’s foreign minister, Tzipi Livni, repeatedly raised the issue of Israel as a Jewish state with her Palestinian interlocutors, though to no avail: They replied that while they couldn’t stop Israel from calling itself Jewish, the Palestinians would never recognize it as such.

Moreover, far from being a superfluous issue, the Palestinian refusal to recognize Israel’s right to exist as a Jewish state is the core of the conflict: Until Palestinians are prepared to accept a Jewish state, as opposed to an “Israel” flooded by millions of Palestinian “refugees” to create a second Palestinian state, no solution is possible. But if even its former UN ambassador refuses to admit this, how can Israel possibly convince the general public of it?

Or take Jick, who was hired for a job that “entails designing and leading Zionist education seminars” despite her “personal doubts about Israel,” as she frankly acknowledged in a Jerusalem Post column in September. But no worries: She soon concluded that Zionism “does not entail defending Israel”; one can maintain “steadfast loyalty to Zionist ideology” while being “anti-Israel.” How? By focusing on the original Zionist vision of Israel as “a utopia.”

To be fair, Jick also offers an impassioned defense of Zionism as “the belief in the Jewish national movement,” which can’t be rejected without “rejecting the
history, heritage, and tradition that defines Jewish peoplehood,” and of the need to educate students “about Israel’s limitless potential and its raison d’etre” rather than rejecting “the ideology that gave us this miracle”–a state.

But if even someone who supports Zionism in the abstract isn’t willing to defend the actual Jewish state – if Jick can only tolerate the actual Israel’s existence by fantasizing about a “utopia” that no flesh-and-blood state can ever become – then how can one expect the general public, which lacks even an abstract commitment to Zionism, to tolerate the Jewish state’s existence at all?

And if neither Israel nor Jewish organizations can be bothered to find representatives willing to sell Israel’s case, how can they expect the world to buy it?

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